Democracy is an astounding game. It’s hard to overstate how powerful sets of chart and facts and figures can be, but the base game completely changed my relationship with politics. I used to be some kind of neo-liberal thinking that David Cameron had caused many of life’s problems and that the Conservatives weren’t doing anything to fix it. A few goes on Democracy where I installed my liberal policies, cut back military spending and raised taxes for the rich and it began to dawn on me just how complicated real politics is. Installing liberal policies alienates you from many voters, reducing your mandate to govern. Cutting back military spending sours relations with other countries that you might trade with. Raising taxes for the rich causes them to leave and avoids future investments. By the end of my first term, every single time, I’d be unelectable and broke, all because I stuck by my principles.
Slowly but surely I began to see it as a real game, I increased surveillance, I pandered to the far right, I increased border checks. I did everything I hate politicians do, because that’s how you win. That’s how you get re-elected. Eventually it made me learn why things are the way they were.
Now a standalone has been released, where you can take on the same kind of challenges, but in Africa. Africa as a continent has a much broader range of political situations than was previously on offer in Democracy. There’s stable and prosperous countries, there’s war-torn failed nation states, there’s plagued religious and fractured nations. Democracy 3: Africa challenges you to take on these countries and make a success of them. Good luck.
Democracy isn’t a game for people with short attention spans. While a term can be played out in half an hour or less, there’s very little to hold your attention during that time beyond the decisions you’re making and seeing the results of them in the form of numbers. There’s no visuals to the game beyond the charts and occasional pictures representing a terrorist group or random situation. Most of the game is spent looking at bars of various colours and working out how they’re all connected. Much of it is explained to you with arrows and connecting lines but there’s always common sense to take into account too. Lower the tobacco tax and people might like you, but more people will smoke, which will make more people ill and unfit for work, adding to the burden on your hospitals.
Sometimes it feels unfair to call Democracy a game, it’s more than that, but it’s also a lot of fun. This is pure strategy, combined with an enlightening perspective on real world decision making at the highest level. Africa adds a new dimension into the mix and provides a huge amount of challenge for anyone who feels like they’ve ‘mastered’ the core game. Heartily recommended to everyone, especially anyone who whines about the government.